Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit vacated the ruling of the district court denying Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction in this case, holding that record lacked necessary findings and that remand was required.This case arose from a decision by the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to enforce a House rule precluding any representative from participating in proceedings involving the full House, including House matters, other than in person. Plaintiffs, including seven members of the House who claimed to suffer from medical conditions making them vulnerable to COVID-19, brought this action arguing that the Speaker was required to allow them to participate remotely under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and section 504 of the Rehabiliation Act, 29 U.S. 794. The district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The First Circuit vacated the district court's decision, holding that the court erred in finding that the doctrine of legislative immunity shielded the Speaker from having to comply with the ADA and/or Section 504. View "Cushing v. Packard" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the Municipality of Canovanas's Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion to overturn the default judgment entered for Plaintiffs on Plaintiffs' claims brought under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), 42 U.S.C. 1395dd, and Puerto Rico law, holding that Canovanas's arguments were unavailing.Plaintiffs, Julio Carrasquillo-Serrano (Carrasquillo) and his family, alleged that Canovanas owned, operated, and/or managed CDT of Canovanas, the emergency medical facility that provided medical services to Carrasquillo and that Carrasquillo was permanently disabled as a result of Defendants' negligence. The district court entered judgment for Plaintiffs. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the judgment was not void for lack of jurisdiction; (2) service of process was sufficient; (3) a statutory limitation of liability is an affirmative defense; and (4) the district court had jurisdiction to determine the merits of Plaintiffs' EMTALA claims. View "Carrasquillo-Serrano v. Municipality of Canovanas" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court refusing to enter Plaintiffs' requested preliminary injunction, holding that the district court correctly held that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of their right to travel claim.Plaintiffs, three individuals who intended to travel from New Hampshire to Maine and certain businesses that relied on out-of-state customers, filed suit in response to an executive order issued by the Governor of Maine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order required persons traveling to Maine to self-quarantine upon their arrival for fourteen days before going out in public. Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction prohibiting the requirement's enforcement, alleging that the self-quarantine requirement violated their constitutional rights to interstate travel and to procedural due process. The district court rejected the request. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly held that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to show that they had a likelihood of success on the merits. View "Bayley's Campground Inc. v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal without prejudice for lack of appellate jurisdiction, holding that the appeal was premature.In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Maine responded to the threat of contagion by issuing executive orders limiting all non-essential activities and gatherings. Plaintiff Calvary Chapel of Bangor brought this action arguing that those orders violated the First Amendment's Free Speech, Free Exercise, Assembly, and Establishment protections. The district court refused Plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order. Plaintiff appealed. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that this case did not display the criteria this Court has previously identified as characterizing a de facto denial of injunctive relief and that the remaining requirements for appealability were not satisfied. View "Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court compelling arbitration after first certifying two questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), holding that the SJC's decision compelled the First Circuit to affirmed the judgment compelling arbitration.The personal representative of a deceased former nursing home resident brought a state wrongful death action against a set of organizations that oversaw the nursing home (collectively, nursing home). The nursing home sued to compel arbitration. The federal court compelled arbitration. On appeal, the personal representative argued that she was not bound by the decedent’s agreement to arbitrate with the nursing home because her wrongful death right of recovery was independent of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit certified questions of law to the SJC. After the SJC answered that claims of statutory beneficiaries under the state's wrongful death statute are derivative of the decedent's own cause of action, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the SJC's decision required this Court to affirm the judgment compelling arbitration. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Plaintiffs, patients whose healthcare providers used eClinicalWorks, LLC (ECW) software to record and store their medical records, lacked standing to bring this case, holding that, without further injury, Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case.Plaintiffs were the estates of two deceased patients whose medical records were kept and stored by healthcare providers using ECW. Plaintiffs alleged that ECW's system was riddled with bugs that showed healthcare providers false and incomplete data about patients' medical problems and treatments and that ECW hid the glitches from government regulators. Plaintiffs brought several state common-law claims and sought to represent a class of millions of other similarly-situated patients. The district court dismissed the case under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arguments as presented sought redress based on a moot risk of misdiagnosis or mistreatment that no statute or common-law claim makes suable. Therefore, Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case. View "Amrhein v. eClinical Works, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over who was the first-to-file relator in a case brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., the First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court ruling that the first-to-file rule was jurisdictional, holding, for the first time in this circuit, that the first-to-file rule is not jurisdictional and that the Court had jurisdiction over Mark McGuire's crossclaim.The FCA's first-to-file rule prohibits relators other than the first to file from bringing a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action. In this case, the government successfully intervened in several qui tam suits against Millennium Health. Millennium settled with the government, setting aside fifteen percent of the settlement proceeds as a relator's share. McGuire brought a crossclaim for declaratory judgment that he was the first to file and was thus entitled to the fifteen-percent share. The district court dismissed the crossclaim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, finding that the first-to-file rule was jurisdictional. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the first-to-file rule is not jurisdictional, and therefore, the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over McGuire's crossclaim; and (2) McGuire was the first-to-file relator and has stated a claim that he is entitled to the relator's share of the settlement. View "McGuire v. Estate of Robert Cunningham" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction compelling Defendants to provide Plaintiff with medication while she is incarcerated, holding that the district court properly found that a preliminary injunction was warranted under the circumstances of this case.Plaintiff, who was due to be incarcerated for forty days in the county jail, was informed that she was not to receive her twice daily dose of buprenorphine prescribed for an "opioid use disorder" while incarcerated. Plaintiff brought this suit seeking injunctive relief compelling Defendants to provide her medication while she was incarcerated. The district court found a sufficient likelihood of success combined with both a strong balance of harms and a public interest in favor of Plaintiff so as to warrant a preliminary injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its preliminary assessment of the issues that must be balanced in deciding a request for preliminary injunctive relief. View "Smith v. Aroostook County" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit certified questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) under its Rule 1:03, holding that the dispute in this case turned on the characterization of wrongful death actions by the Commonwealth and presented an unresolved question of Massachusetts law whose answer was unclear.The personal representative of a deceased former nursing home resident brought a state wrongful death action against a set of organizations that oversaw the nursing home (collectively, nursing home). The nursing home sued to compel arbitration. The federal court compelled arbitration and declined to issue a stay of the state wrongful death action. On appeal, the personal representative argued that she was not bound by the decedent’s agreement to arbitrate with the nursing home because her wrongful death right of recovery was independent of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. In asserting that the arbitration agreement was binding, the nursing home argued that Massachusetts beneficiaries’ wrongful death claims are derivative of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit exercised its discretion in favor of certification, holding that Massachusetts law does not clearly decide the independent/derivative or other relevant questions about the status of wrongful death actions in relation to the decedent. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendant after this Court remanded the case, holding that any error in the district court’s evidentiary rulings was harmless and that the district court did not commit prejudicial error when it found that Plaintiffs waived their negligence claim.Plaintiffs Barbara and Michael Bradley filed a second amended complaint alleging medical negligence, battery, and the failure to obtain informed consent. The district court granted summary judgment on the battery claim. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in Defendant’s favor. The First Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial on account of an error in excluding the testimony of Plaintiffs’ proffered expert witness. After a second trial, the jury again returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) assuming, without deciding, that the district court erred in admitting an entry from Barbara’s diary and in admitting an excerpt from Barbara’s medical records from a different hospital, these errors were harmless; and (2) the district court did not commit prejudicial error in finding Plaintiffs to have waived their medical negligence claim. View "Bradley v. Sugarbaker" on Justia Law